STEPPING UP: Kodi Nikorima is excited by the chance to strut his stuff in New Zealand today with the Broncos.
STEPPING UP: Kodi Nikorima is excited by the chance to strut his stuff in New Zealand today with the Broncos. DAVE HUNT

Nikorima ready to step up in absence of star Broncos

Kodi Nikorima said he would relish the added responsibility with regular starting hooker Andrew McCullough out injured for the clash against the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium today.

Nikorima is a proven dynamic hooker when he comes on from the bench and will keep that role with Travis Waddell to start in the No.9 jersey.

But with ironman McCullough out due to a fractured thumb, Nikorima is expected to play longer minutes off the bench.

The Broncos will need all the usual energy he provides them with in McCullough's absence, and with Matt Gillett and Corey Oates rested after Wednesday night's taxing Origin match which Queensland won 6-4.

Captain Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday, Josh McGuire and Darius Boyd will all back up from Queensland duties.

"Last time Macca was injured I got a bit more minutes," Nikorima said. "It's unfortunate for Mac - he's one of our most consistent players over the past couple of years.

"Me and the other hooker (Waddell) will really have to step up."

New Zealand international Nikorima, who is off contract at the Broncos at the end of this season, said he would lift his game playing in his native country.

"I love playing in New Zealand and I love playing against the Warriors," he said.

"When you go into Kiwi camps it's like a brotherhood, so to get one up on them would be something special."

The Broncos dropped to third on the NRL ladder after losing their past two games.

"We got a little frustrated out there on the weekend (in a 19-18 upset loss to the Tigers). We just need to go back to basics and hold up our end in defence and we should be right," Nikorima said.

Herman Ese'ese and Jai Arrow were both in contention to play after being named on an extended bench, with Broncos coach Wayne Bennett to finalise his 17 before kick-off today.

In his first NRL match since April 25, crowd favourite and Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei will resume his quest to become only the 11th player in competition history to score 150 tries, with two more needed.

The underperforming 14th-placed Warriors have also lost their past two games.



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